By Lindsey Heflin
“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” – Title IX, Education Amendment of 1972
In 1972, Title IX, one of the most pivotal pieces of legislation to pass in congress, changed the course of history for women in the world of sports.
Before Title IX passed, only 1 in 27 high school girls participated in sports, and only 32,000 female athletes played in college. Today, 2 in 5 high school girls compete in sports and there are over 193,000 female collegiate athletes.
This important amendment paved the way for women across the nation and initiated action to change women’s place in both athletics and in the work world.
Missy Park was one of those women.
After graduating from college, Missy Park sought out the opportunity to run a company. But she soon realized that she would never be given the opportunity, and after plowing through more than seven jobs, Park decided to start her own business.
That business would soon be known as Title Nine, a female athletic gear company, catering to women who are passionate about playing sports and being active.
This was a revolutionary idea, because back in the 80’s, there was no Athleta, Lululemon, or Dick’s for Her. Seeing this gap in the market, Missy Park decided to begin selling female athletic merchandise in her garage in Berkeley, CA in the Spring of 1989.
“In the beginning and really to this day, we learned business the old fashioned way: by trying, failing, learning and trying again. It has not always been pretty, but over the years it has proved effective.”
At first, Park was barely able to sell anything. The catalogs were poorly made, the clothing itself wasn’t the most tasteful, and there were no tops or tees. But there were sports bras. And those sports bras SOLD! Not only did they sell quickly, but they would eventually set the foundation for a very successful business.
From the beginning, Title IX’s models weren’t all thinly shaped women with makeup and beautiful unblemished skin that appeared photoshopped, like many models in today’s modern magazines. No, their models were actual athletes, many of whom were friends and teammates who would have their photos taken on non-tournament weekends.
To this day, Title IX has continued the tradition of natural models; their women are all shapes and sizes. “Real bodies in motion, real athletes in action” – Title Nine.
After the company began growing popularity and profits increased, the group of women who banded together to run Title IX, began to use their funds to create opportunities for girls and women to participate in sports.
Title IX partnered with nonprofits, and formed a basketball league in Oakland, inviting 4th and 5th grade girls to participate, and over time, over 40 leagues were born. This initiated Starting Block Grants, which are grants given to grassroot organizations whose goal is to help girls in underserved communities connect with sports and fitness.
Title IX also created Poster Girls: a program where past Title IX retail posters of their models, are distributed to different schools and weight rooms across the country, so as to “model” the way for young girls, and show them what real female athletes look like.
They’ve also come up with a foundation, known as Bra Brigade, that provides at-risk girls with quality sports bras.
Today, Title IX remains one of the largest independently owned and operated retailers in women’s fitness and adventure space, according to the Title IX website.
They have 23 stores stretched across 11 states as well as hold a thriving ecommerce business that sells not only sports bras, but a variety of sports gear and everyday active wear for women.
While this company has continued to grow, they have not lost sight of their mission and commitment to the meaning behind the 37 words of Title IX. Their focus is supporting and embracing the strength and beauty of women and promoting the importance of standing together and striving for equal rights.
And making sure that while women are fighting these constant battles, they look good doing it as well.